//slight depictions of death & gore
With every careful inhale, the sprig of lavender I tucked in the nose of the mask fluttered against my skin. I fought every urge in me that wanted to rub away the itch, but it was against solid reasoning to touch anything pure with my befouled hands. The lavender didn't camouflage much of the stench, the further I traveled into the town with my sick cart, the odor of decay and illness would wind its way under my mask and render me breathless. I learned quickly to take air in through my mouth- although the taste of rotting flesh wasn't any better than the fragrance.
I kept my pace through the village, intent on silencing the wailing from dying children and desperate mothers and fathers. The clanging sound of my bell echoed through the empty streets, a devilish siren call. I didn't say a word and stood stoic while village-folk tossed stiff and bloated bodies onto my cart. One unfortunate soul was thrown belly up, his cold, dead eyes staring straight through me like bowls of milk. I swallowed hard, allowing a few moments for the mourners to say goodbye and tuck mementos into the pockets of the corpses for their trip to God. An aged woman- the sickness already overtaking her body in the form of leaking black pustules- took a few seconds to delicately place a Bible onto the chest of a child, folding his stone-stiff fingers around the pages. She whispered a prayer onto his cold body, smoothing a patch of hair away from his ashen face. I respected their faith in a God who would allow this tragedy to fall upon the Earth.
After my trip my cart was full and heavy, difficult to haul through the deep mud that sucked around the heels of my boots. I help my gaze straight ahead to avoid the stares of the dead, my mouth shut against the smell. In quiet moments like these, I often felt as if I could hear their calls, feel their souls still vibrating from deep inside the bones held tight in rotting flesh.
Each voice sounded as if it came from inside my own head, rattling around in my skull and becoming a part of me.
It was dusk by the time my sick cart and I made it onto the harbor. The trip across the water was a short but lonesome one. I loaded each body onto my docked boat by hand, my gloved fingers often slipping over bloated, sloughing skin that would split from the force of my grip and come off in rolls in my palms. I shoved the boat off into the water with a grunt, the old wood creaking on the waves.
My lamp cut a slice of light in front of my boat, allowing me to see a few feet in front of me. The corpses rolled through the putrid water at the bottom of the boat each time we hit a particularly choppy bit of lake. Mist came down like a shroud, the rotten air sticking to my skin under my mask.
Any time my mind wandered to something, my thoughts were cornered by the voices of the bodies below me. They gurgled and spat, cursing me, cursing their God. Some cried deep, agonized cries. Some shouted until their voices were stifled by the disease that killed them. Their words chilled me to my core with each wretched moan. I feared that if I looked upon their faces, frozen in time, I might catch their mouths moving with prayers they spoke to me under their empty breath.
Curse your Christ, leading us toward our retribution like pigs to slaughter...
This plague be the work of Satan and you are his gate keeper.
We shout our prayers, sing His hymns and recite His words yet it is God who turns a deaf ear.
Blessed be thy soul who walks upon forsaken ground.
The words of the dead echo in my ears, the only ones spoken to me are from mouths that have long stopped moving. Prayers from hands that have long ceased folding in worship. Their voices proof that their journey is far from over and that their souls will settle among the stars, finally at rest and free from the pain that brought them to me.
((this one is a little short. i wanted to get this up and get some commentary before i get super busy in a few days. first original piece in a while and first one for this prompt event. i hope you guys enjoy!))